Frank Weston Benson's portrait of his youngest daughter, Sylvia, is one of the last known plein air paintings he executed of his family members on the hillsides and slopes around their summer home in Penoboscot, Maine. Clearly evident here is Benson's mastery of the light. Sylvia shields her eyes from the sun (a classic Benson pose for his models) as she gazes out across the bay. The light has a powerful effect on the features of the canvas. The sails on the ship, the water in the bay and the ground on which Sylvia stands are all suffused in light, and shadow. The contrast between the two creates a marvelous rendering of the dramatic impact direct sunlight has on subjects. The subject matter of this, and many other individual and group paintings that Benson did, is gentle and refined.


  • Title: The Watcher
  • Creator: Frank Weston Benson
  • Date: 1921
  • Physical Dimensions: w25 x h30 in.
  • Credit Line: Gift of Ruth Woods Dayton
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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